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Principles and Techniques of Aikido

Our mental representation of a man attacking or defending is a visual process based on the conception that we have of the human body when it is resting but this static vision is fundamentally flawed. Even though the human body is indeed a composed of a torso fitted with four limbs and a head in the way that has been immortalized in so many statues around the world, this representation does not translate the reality of the dynamic aptitudes of our body. This is however by this motion that we must represent our adversary.

This is where the sphere analogy comes of use. The periphery is in motion relative to its center and the center can move back and forth, laterally and vertically, leading the periphery. The center is located within the abdomen, very much in the way Leonardo da Vinci represented it in his Vitruvian Man drawing.

  • <a class=André Nocquet" width="200" height="272" class="rt-image" style="margin: 5px; float: right;" />The first necessity is, even before the attack, to lose the static representation and accept the one of the sphere in action.
  • The second necessity is to evaluate the radius of this sphere.
  • The third necessity is the one that differentiates Aikido from Judo. In Judo, if one opponent pulls, the other one follows, and if one pushes, the other one goes back: both adversaries interact with each other. In Aikido, the goal is to stay tangent, just outside of the opponent's sphere of action, not relative to the body, but relative to the extremities of our upper or lower limbs.

Engaging oneself into the adversary's sphere can only be achieved if the potentiality of his attack has been annihilated within a certain radius of action. This is why Aikido seems essentially like an art of slipping which results in putting the defendant within a zone where the limbs of the attacker cannot reach him. This is the result of a perfect execution of taisabaki which allows the creation of a vacuum before the attacker, and then to attack his vital points.

More tan any other forms of defense; Aikido uses the attacker's own strength as an opportunity to defeat him. In fact, contrary to Judo, an Aikido practitioner seldom grabs the attacker and sometimes not at all. In Aikido, the attacker dashes forward, directed in one single direction, until he looses his balance.

André Nocquet at the Aikikai Honbu Dojo in the 50's

The general idea is to use the most peripheral part of the sphere of action such as the opponent's hands or wrists and to use it in order to rotate this sphere in the same direction as its initial, voluntary motion. In effect, we don't block the blow, we don't redirect it from its own course but instead, we force this atemi to complete its spherical motion or its most extreme axis. In other words, we seek to get maximum lever power. The body of the adversary turns because of the motion at the extremity of his limbs. We must only penetrate into the opponent's sphere at the moment when the radiating expansion of the adversary has been driven away.

Aikido is the art of tangent action

Action through flexors and extensor muscles is the main attribute of boxing and wrestling and more generally, of all the competitive sports, even Judo. Instead, in Aikido, we seek the extreme imbalance that allows the opponent to use neither his flexors, nor his extensors, which are the only way that humans have to act on things.

The rotating aspects occur on three dimensions and of course, are combined with changes in rhythm within the movement's acceleration.


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Guillaume Erard
Author: Guillaume Erard
A resident of Japan for nearly a decade, Guillaume Erard trains at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, where he received the 5th Dan from Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. He also holds a 3rd Dan in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, the secretive art that Morihei Ueshiba learned from Sokaku Takeda. Erard is the Information Director of the International Aikido Federation and the Deputy Secretary of International Affairs of the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Shikoku Headquarters. He is also passionate about science and education and holds a PhD in Molecular Biology.
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